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Welcome to my site, a collection of writings covering Latinx culture, travel, lifestyle and peer interviews.
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How Are Latinos Redefining the American Dream?

How Are Latinos Redefining the American Dream?

Larry & Friends: An illustrated book on the immigration experience, diversity and friendship

Larry & Friends: An illustrated book on the immigration experience, diversity and friendship

Have you ever heard of the “American Dream”? It’s the notion that any one person can make it in America regardless of origins or social class. That if one works hard enough, one has a fair shot at achieving prosperity and success or upward social mobility. I’ll be honest, I lean more towards the skeptic and some may say cynic view of the “American Dream”. Yes, we hear of the incredible and moving stories in which people with little to no resources move to the States and achieve greatness through hard work and dedication. But I would venture to say that for every one of these stories, we don’t hear of the thousands that didn’t “make it”. The people that work tirelessly but such efforts don’t yield results worthy of calling it the American Dream. What I’m saying is that I don’t solely believe in meritocracy, I believe chance, luck, circumstances and connections also play a significant role in our lives. However, I must admit that I am a walking example of the American Dream...

You might be wondering so what? Well, I bring this up because I recently attended Chicago Ideas Week (CIW) first ever Spanish panel discussion addressing this topic. The conversation explored the theme of what the American Dream means to Latinos. The dialogue was led by four renowned Hispanic figures that have achieved their American Dream, including Chef Hugo Ortega, reporter Ana Belaval, MIT VP Israel Ruiz, and White House Director of Hispanic Media Katherine Vargas. The conversation was moderated by Univision journalist Enrique Acevedo. Sitting in the same room as the distinguished guests was empowering and reassuring. The poignant discussion touched on a variety of topics but there was an emphasis on the importance Latinos place in education as a gateway to success.

The focus on education is simple to explain. Latin America is an elitist society and access to good education is typically limited to those belonging to the wealthy niche. As such, the majority of Latinos immigrate to the states for better opportunities, specifically education. This is why people risk everything, cross borders illegally and throw themselves in a society that might not fully welcome them – to access education. Most immigrant’s idea of their American Dream is the hope that their kids be better and have more opportunities than they did. I relate wholeheartedly. My parents sacrificed everything we knew and uprooted my family to provide us with these opportunities. Whether we decide to step up and self-advance is very much a personal choice. The main takeaways from the discussion were that Latinos should aim higher. That we are on the verge of becoming the majority of this country and need to start fulfilling our goals and aspirations. That we should strive to thank our parents for their struggles by making them proud. After all, we are the future of the U.S…

I mentioned earlier my views and reality on the American dream don’t necessarily align. As clichéd as it sounds, my life epitomizes what the Am Dream is supposed to be. I grew up in Mexico, in a rural and modest village of about 100 people with an unreliable water and electricity supply. Telephones? Computers? Video games? Nope. There were no family vacations because we couldn’t afford to travel for leisure. I remember vividly when my mother gave me the choice between buying the doll I desperately wanted or the pair of shoes I desperately needed. Don’t get me wrong, I had a happy childhood. I don’t consider my upbringing to have been poor or lacking of material possessions, but it was humble. And I’m thankful and proud of such origins. After all, my parents gave me the things I needed, just not everything I wanted. Contrast my humble childhood with the life I now lead in Chicago, one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the U.S. Working a respectable job that pays me enough to afford a swanky apartment and an active social life filled with regular gourmet dinners, overpriced yoga classes, concerts, vacations and so on. Nowadays some of my biggest concerns include deciding if I can afford a trip to New York and paying my student loans on a timely basis. I’m in the process of making it. To my family, Hispanic community and American society at large, I am the manifestation of the American Dream.

Interestingly the reservations I hold about the American Dream seem to be echoed by other young Americans, as suggested by a recent study. According to the study’s authors, people now believe in The American Dream Deux in which “anyone can go to college IF they have the resources, are ok about going into debt, can somehow get the coveted scholarship, are willing to go to community college, or come from a family of means.” It seems we hold a bleaker, more realistic view of said Dream. What are YOUR thoughts on the American Dream? How do you define it? Are you living out your own version? 

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